*I was invited to Winchester and provided with complimentary
tickets to Marwell Zoo, the city guided tour, the ice rink and pantomime
in exchange for this post but all thoughts and opinions are my own
I’m an early bloomer when it comes to feeling festive, it generally gets too late October and I’m ready to blast out the Christmas tunes and put up my decorations. I tend to hold back a little bit as 1st December is the perfect day to put up your decorations and I don’t want to play Christmas music so much that I get fed up by half-way through December. One of the things I love when it comes towards Christmas are having festive days out and experiencing other UK cities around the festive period. This year I headed to Winchester for a super festive day and here’s what I got up to.
We started the day by heading to Marwell Zoo which opens at 10 am every day where you will get the chance to see a load of animals around the zoo including lions, snow leopards, giraffes and, penguins. Even out of season there are still talks and feedings and it’s so much quieter than in the summer. If you’ve got kids booked into Christmas at Marwell where you can listen to stories from Neverland as told by Mother Christmas, create your own Christmas present bag in the elves workshop and meet Father Christmas.
After finishing off at the zoo head to Winchester city centre to park up and drop your bags at your hotel. We stayed at the Mercure Wessex Hotel as it’s centrally located right opposite the cathedral and minutes away from both the high street and the Christmas market. Head over to the Cathedral where you can take a guided tour, find Jane Austen’s grave and marvel at the beautiful stained glass windows which are pretty unique. The glass was actually smashed up by Oliver Cromwell’s forces but the pieces were all picked up and slowly pieced back together in no order, but it does make it look absolutely stunning.
Once you’ve gotten out of the cathedral it’s time to head into the Christmas market and wander around the stalls treating yourself to a hot chocolate or mulled wine on your travels and some lunch. I really like the Winchester Christmas market as there’s such a big mixture of stalls, we picked up some indulgent brownie in a mug mixture, some really good gin from a Bristol distillery and some really yummy cheese.
At 2.30pm head over to the Tourist Information Centre to join the Guided Walking Tour of the city. There’s normally a north or south city tour but over Christmas, it’s combined as a best of the best taking in sights including the Cathedral, some Roman ruins, the Abbey gardens and so much more. For 90 minutes we were taken around the city with our tour and it was so interesting to find out more about the city of Winchester which was the old Capital of England before London.
Once the tour is over it’s time to head back into the market for a little relax before going on the Ice Rink. I’m rubbish at ice skating as I’m pretty worried about falling over but there was plenty of edges to hold on too. If you’re a kid there are very cool penguins you can push along to stop you from falling and I was pretty jealous of these. Ice skating makes me instantly think of Christmas and if you’re looking for a good laugh then this is what you need.
By this time you’re probably pretty hungry and in need of a sit down so check into your hotel and then head over to the high street to grab dinner at one of the many restaurants on offer. As it was quite busy the day we went we opted for anywhere that had a table which for us was Ask and I’m going to admit I was very impressed considering I’ve not been to the chain in a number of years. Their festive cheese fondue with a garlic herb crust and dough balls was just the treat I wanted to start my meal with.
Now it wouldn’t be a festive day out without ending it at the Panto! Winchester’s Theatre Royale have Beauty and the Beast as their show for 2018 and considering I hadn’t been to the panto for about 18 years I wasn’t sure what to expect. Firstly there were a lot more adults there than I had expected and there were plenty of adult jokes hidden in the show. It definitely had the kids appeal with the silly jokes and the ‘Oh yes you are’/ ‘Oh no you’re not’, but then I found myself laughing on numerous occasions.
With the pantomime over, it’s time to head back to the hotel after a long day of walking and festive celebrations. I was super tired after the day exploring but I felt so festive by the end of it.